Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Post Pending...

I have an article pending on the role of preaching in evangelism, but Keith Shearer beat me to it. Consider this paragraph:

When asked what the best method/approach to evangelism is, my response is, "Preach the Gospel." Often the questioner will look at me as if I'm a bit dense in the head, and thinking I've not understood she/he rephrases the question, "But what is the best method for preaching the Gospel?". Then my reply is, "Preaching the Gospel IS a method - it is THE method - it is GOD'S method."
So, since the bar has been raised, I am reworking my article and formulating my thoughts a little more. (With his article up, it is unnecessary for me to simply reiterate similar thoughts...though there will inevitably be quite a bit of "overlap.")

So, while I enjoy returning to my studies, take the opportunity to read the full article

Then, check out a sermon of his. You'll find his preaching practices what he preaches!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why Expositional Exaltation Is Particularly Glorifying to God

From John Piper's Message at "Together for the Gospel 06"

Which, by the way, is why so many people say so many minimizing and foolish things about preaching...They have never heard it. They don't know what it is. They have not basis for judgement as they belittle it and call for alternatives that are more effective.
Oh that God would raise up in this room, and across this country and the world, young preachers who would leave their hearers with a spiritual sense of shock at the sense of God. Some sense of the infinite weight of the glory of God. That's my longing, that's my prayer, for this conference and for you. That God would raise up thousands of broken-hearted, Bible-saturated preachers who are dominated by a sense of the greatness, and the majesty and the holiness of God as He has been decisively revealed in Jesus Christ through the gospel of Christ crucified, risen and reigning today over all nations, all armies, all cancer cells, and all politics and all churches and all false religions. That there would be a gripping of pastors today of the amazing weight of the absolute claims of the Lordship of Christ over the nations...and over everybody in your city. They will bow or they will burn. There is no doubt about it, Jesus Christ lays absolute claim on planet earth. Everybody in your city must bow their knee. That must grip pastors.
God did not ordain the cross of Christ, or create the Lake of Fire in order to communicate the insignificance of belittling His glory. The death of the Son of God, and the damnation of unrepentant human beings are the loudest shouts conceivable under heaven that God is infinitely holy, that sin is infinitely offensive, that wrath is infinitely just, and that grace is infinitely precious. And that the brief little life that you and I live, and that everybody in our churches live, is going to issue very quickly, either in everlasting joy or everlasting pain.

What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of preaching is soaked in the blood of Jesus and singed in the fire of hell.

[Video of quote available here.]T4G06 was the greatest conference I've ever been to for equipping and encouraging a pastor to preach faithfully, and I'm sure this year will as well. I encourage you to sign up while registration is still available, or ask [suggest strongly to] your pastor if he is going.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Preacher's Authority

Throughout the history of the church the greatest preachers have been those who have recognized that they have no authority in themselves, and have seen their task as being to explain the words of Scripture and apply them clearly to the lives of their hearers. Their preaching has drawn its power not from the proclamation of their own Christian experiences of the experiences of others, nor from their own opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God's powerful words. Essentially, they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, "This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it with all your heart, for God himself, you Creator and your Lord, is saying this to you today!" Only the written words of Scripture can give this kind of authority to preaching.--Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine

(HT: Josh Harris)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Continuing In "Apostolic" Ministry

The term "apostolic" can be debated today. Are there still Apostles? Is there are difference between Apostles and apostles? If so, what are the differences? More importantly, what would the similarities be? Do we in any way carry on the apostolic commissions?

Consider Paul's statement:

For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.--1 Timothy 2:7
Similarly, he says:
for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.--2 Timothy 1:11
Since Paul only uses preacher (κῆρυξ) twice, and each time it is accompanied with apostle and teacher, let's consider the three titles from Paul:


Though the process was unique for Paul, his office as an Apostle was not. Paul understood that some people would question this title, so he reenforces his claim with "I am telling the truth, I am not lying." We know that some denied his Apostleship, but Paul knew that those who had experienced his ministry would not.
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.-- 1 Corinthians 9:1-2
Paul's authority as an Apostle was built upon the fact that he had seen the Risen Christ, however unique the timing may have been (1 Corinthians 15:6-8). Yet, this claim is hard for others to verify, so Paul calls upon his audience to confirm his calling.

At this point, it is interesting to note that Paul does not refer to his miraculous works. He does not reference snake bites or his amazing survival of massive persecution. He calls the Corinthian church to consider their regenerate faith as evidence of his apostleship. And for his apostleship to result in their conversion, what must have been at the heart of his apostleship?


First, Paul mentions he has been appointed as a preacher. He has been set in the position of a preacher or a herald. Strong's defines preacher as:
a herald or messenger vested with public authority, who conveyed the official messages of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or who gave a public summons or demand, and performed various other duties. In the NT God's ambassador, and the herald or proclaimer of the divine word.
Since many of the Apostles participated in the formation of more Scripture, prophesied to future things and received divine instructions in specific situations, we can often think of Apostles as creatures of original works. At first glance, we may consider the Apostle as one who helped usher in the new. However, this is not the role of a preacher.

Paul had been appointed to be a herald. This specific form is unique to Paul (in the above passages) as well as a description of Noah in 2 Peter (see: The Success of Noah's Sermons). Like the prophets of the Old Testament, the herald does not present his own message, but a message from the Lord. Noah proclaimed God's message of His righteousness. Paul chose not to proclaim his own ideals, but chose to preach of Christ, and Him alone (1 Corinthians 2:2). When Paul says, "For this I was appointed," the message of Christ is the this. For in the above verses, Paul establishes that God desires salvation for all through Christ, the Mediator between God and man, who offered Himself as a ransom for our sin. Paul makes it clear that his appointment is for the gospel message--not his message or his creative expression, but for this message--which has already been given.


The preacher and the Apostle are not called to serve as motivators, nor do they seek to manipulate the will of the listener. The result of their ministry should end in the teaching of the audience. There should be instruction attached. His ministry will result in doctrine. This can be seen in the two words which reference his teaching.

Faith--Paul speaks often of faith. Often Paul uses this term to refer to our fidelity and faithfulness. One can observe our faith, by our outward workings of that faith. This should not surprise us, for James speaks that our faith must result in works. We are reminded of the words of the reformers, "We are saved by faith alone, but not faith which is alone." We understand that Paul speaks of faith, he often means our faith made visible to others through our actions.

However, it is critical to realize Paul never means our actions apart from faith. He has instructed the Roman church that "whatever is not from faith is sin" (14:23). There is no outward action which can be pleasing to God apart from the proper motivation of faith directed toward God. How then can a person see this faith working in us apart from instruction?

Truth--Thus Paul tells us he taught the Gentiles in truth. His instruction comes in the form of objective teaching. He is not merely calling the church to "be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1) as outward expression alone. He is not impressed with outward actions when not accompanied with faithful understanding, in fact, he finds them damning (see: Galatians). Therefore, his work amongst the Gentiles included his life and character, but also the teaching of the source of his faith. Paul had lived a life of "faithful deeds" in the past, which he found worthless apart from Christ (Philippians 3:2-7). Instruction must be attached to life.

And in the 21st Century?

The Apostolic office has not carried on. The Apostles heard from Christ and then gave that message to the next generation. Hebrews 2 uses very clear "us" and "them" language which reminds us we are not carrying on the Apostolic office. It is so easy for the church to misunderstand this dimension and error in one of two directions. A) We seek out those Apostolic gifts which God testified with them, thinking they can be applied to us. or B) We neglect the commissioning and the greater ministry of the Apostles.

As Hebrews 2 reminds us, the focus was never intended to be the miraculous works or the signs that accompanied the Apostles teaching, but the spoken word of the Apostles. This word Paul instructed Timothy to preach. This word Timothy was then to instruct to faithful men who would pass it along.

Paul was appointed an Apostle, but not because Asia Minor desperately needed miraculous works. Paul was commissioned an Apostle because Asia Minor needed the gospel of Jesus Christ. And though we are no longer appointed as Apostles, the commission to preach and teach Christ crucified remains.

Today, many church leaders decry an anemic and ineffective church. In desperation, they seek out new, fresh and creative ways to infuse life in their Body. Our solution is not found in finding something new, but returning to that which has been neglected. We may not have the title, but we do have the message. If we'd like to see "apostolic power" unleashed in our churches, we should continue in the genuine apostolic ministry of preaching and teaching the message entrusted to us.

Monday, February 11, 2008

DTMW4I: Derek Thomas

Expository preaching is a necessary corollary of the doctrine of the God-breathed nature of Scripture. The idea is not so much that God breathed into the Scriptures, but that the Scriptures are the product of His breathing out.--Feed My Sheep, 63
Derek Thomas then goes on to list 6 advantages of the lectio continua preaching model:
    1. It introduces the congregation to the entire Bible.
    2. It ensures that infrequently traveled areas of the Bible are covered.
    3. Preachers unwittingly shape the way their hearers read their Bibles. Consecutive expository preaching can inculcate sound habits of personal Bible study.
    4. Only by the discipline of consecutive expository preaching will a congregation be exposed to the full range of Scripture's interests and concerns.
    5. It is not an unworthy consideration to desire to sustain a congregation's interest from week to week by variety.
    6. Nothing I know better aids preachers in thinking ahead and preparing ahead than this discipline of consecutive expository preaching.

Dr. Derek Thomas, originally from Wales, is Associate Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology as well as Dean of Chapel at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He serves as the Minister of Teaching at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Success of Noah's Sermons

Before entering the naval sector, there isn't a lot of information about Noah's occupation. Lamech's exposition of Noah's name certainly implies the family worked the ground. Likewise, his embarrassing post-flood condition showed he certainly knew how to cultivate a vineyard. Whatever Noah did to put matza on the table, we know he was also a preacher:

and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;--2 Peter 2:5
"Preacher of Righteousness." Two words (in the Greek) provide the only explanation. What else do we know about Noah's preaching? Was he good at it? Could we call him successful? Did people listen? Did he see results?

How do we assess a preacher?

By most modern calculations, Noah's preaching would be considered average at best. No sermon transcripts remain; his sermons seem to have died with him. We have no record of future generations emulating his style. If we're generous, his "conversions" total seven...and those were all family, possibly converted beforehand. The man did not even seem able to gather a crowd.
Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.--1 Timothy 4:16
Paul reminds Timothy that a preacher's responsibility is two-fold; Life and Teaching

Character & Doctrine--These are the two items Timothy is called to guard. Paul has mentored his son in the faith, placed him in a church, and is now giving him instructions. These are not two segregated items, for true doctrine will effect your living and your life will either confirm or deny your doctrine. Paul does not instruct Timothy to guard the "buzz factor" around the church, or to even hone his oratory skill. His key will not be in his management skills, nor in his civic connections. He is called to watch his conduct and guard his teaching. It is to be guarded, persevered in, marking that it is not just something established at the front...but it should remain foundational through his ministry.

Similarly, Noah guarded these things as well. He was set apart from the violence and sin of his society. He acted in faith, preached righteousness and walked with God (see: Genesis 6:8-9; Hebrews 11:7)

See Salvation--Just how can life and teaching draw others to salvation if it is not centered upon the gospel message? Paul reminds us: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Clearly, for our lives to remain focussed on the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, we must walk with Christ. However, such obedience can quickly turn to life sucking legalism if not constantly accompanied with the life altering declaration of the gospel. He did not give Timothy a two point action step--preach the gospel then pursue obedience--but calls for perseverance. We are to continue to guard our life and doctrine.

It is interesting here to note that Paul is not giving Timothy a method. He is not saying to Timothy, "My disciple, let me encourage you that a way to reach people for Christ is by guarding your life and teaching." No, Paul offers no alternative. His instruction is that salvation comes through the practice of guarding one's character and doctrine. Often, I hear other pastors present evangelists as theologically shallow by nature. To many, it is almost a requirement; for the evangelist cannot get himself bogged down with doctrinal issues. But Paul not only says that compromising one character or side-stepping some doctrinal truth is not to be preferred...he states it is nonproductive. Salvation is ensured by continuing in these things.

Grading Noah

I recently sat in a meeting where men were willing to deem something a "movement of God" simply by crowd size. (This man's church is growing, it has new people. Clearly God is blessing!) But if this were the case, every large church (including the one who boasts being the largest) would have to be deemed blessed by God. If this were the case, every Protestant pastor in a Catholic community would have to acknowledge the blessing of God lies with the church of Rome. Globally, we'd have to claim that God is doing some amazing things within the Moslem community. Brothers, we know these things to be false.

But often, we refuse to see it working the other direction. Is the faithful pastor of the small, insignificant (in the eyes of men) congregation unsuccessful? Is the pastor who is mocked by other community clergy for his refusal to accept their universalist ecumenical agenda failing to be kingdom minded? Can we really call the pastor of a persecuted church whose numbers have dropped due to martyrdom a failure? Are we ready to call one preacher, with only his family as followers, a failure?

So Great a Salvation!

Noah saw seven others saved from the flood. It is not wrong to desire more converts than that. Clearly, every gospel pastor should desire to see every soul saved they encounter! However, if we think Noah only brought salvation to eight people, we have miscalculated.

While the creationist acknowledges that we are all Adam's descendants, we sometimes neglect to note we are all Noah's as well. Had Noah been unfaithful, our life and breath could not trace through his DNA. As Hebrews 11 points out, that message of faith that was passed down by the patriarchs passed right through the blood of Noah. In the generation of the flood, this faith message only passed through one man. At that particular time, the rope of the gospel was down to one singular thread. And lest we forget, it was not just the message of the coming Messiah that carried through Noah, but the lineage of the Messiah as well. Jesus Christ's arrival on earth, enabling Himself to lay down His life as our ransom, came through the family of Noah and was thus made possible through Noah's faith and obedience. As the world turned a deaf ear to Noah's message and his ministry almost appear fruitless, God sovereignly works to accomplish the salvation of all His elect through the life and teaching of Noah.

How sad if Noah would have changed his message to reach more masses. What a tragedy if Noah decided to participate in the violence of his culture so he could connect better and foster relationships. Oh the great loss if he had simply become fatigued and quit due to the lack of visible response! Ironically, if he had adapted so that he could reach more than seven, he would have failed to bring salvation to all. However, by walking in faith, trusting that God creates the increase, Noah guarded his life and teaching and carried that salvation to all. (In a more recent example, the continent of Africa would look different if James Gribble had focussed on immediate results instead of his life and doctrine.)

Certainly, we desire to see all men saved. But this is not accomplished by doing whatever we can to reach as many as we can. This is done by paying close attention to our life and doctrine, and trusting God that through it He will reach far more than we could ever imagine!

Brothers, preach the Word.